Schools should always try to be safe havens for all students. Even with all the bully-proofing programs offered and the multitude of strategies that school employ, we will never create that panacea. But I believe as educators, we can do something relatively simple that will assist in ensuring that all students, regardless of background, religion, color, creed, ability, etc, can feel the positive effect of a safe and caring environment. That simple task is our attention to and elimination of words that should never be heard in a school!
I first started thinking about writing this blog post last year when a group of parents from our Parents Inclusive Education Roundtable brought a powerful video for our educators to view. Since then, the R-Word: Spread the Word to End the Word campaign has gained international notoriety. Listening to these passionate parents talk about the word “retard or retarded” and how it made them and their children feel caused me to flinch and be overcome with a great sense of embarrassment and sadness. I know that I had used it before and I never addressed it in my educational life. Fortunately, I had a very patient mom explained to me why the R-word was so wrong. Simply put, the R-word is like any other minority slur. Unacceptable!
So, I call on all educators, to think of words that are commonplace in our schools and communities and then, quite simply, don’t allow them. Address it with your students and colleagues and teach them why they are unacceptable. Each of those words are minority slurs and schools should not tolerate them. Beginning in the younger grades, don’t allow name calling and as students get older don’t allow any word that may inflict hurt on another.
Here’s a short list that I’ve started and I hope that you will add to it: Racial slurs, Religious slurs, vulgarity, retarded, fag, gay, homo, geek, nerd…
Our world, beginning in our schools, needs to be more kind and gentle. Those attributes can only be accomplished when we say NO to unacceptable language in our buildings, our homes and our communities. Take a stand and be ALL IN and stop the words we should never hear in school!